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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release June 27, 1997
                           PRESS BRIEFING BY 
                              MIKE MCCURRY
                           The Briefing Room 

1:36 P.M. EDT

MR. MCCURRY: Well, we've had much entertainment here at the White House today, so I'm sure that there are no further questions left at the end of this long week. Good. I'll do the week ahead, and then we can be done with it.

Q Sounds good.

Q When are we going to get the sign-up list?

MR. MCCURRY: When are we going to get the sign-ups?

Q Yeah!

MR. MCCURRY: Yeah! Come on, get the sign-up sheet out here. Helen Thomas is so anxious to go to Bucharest, she wants to sign up right now. So let's go get it.

Q She's opening a new bureau there.

MR. MCCURRY: I think I pretty much did the week ahead up in New York, for those of you who were up there. But next week, as the President alerted you earlier, he will talk about the tax bill on Monday; will talk a little bit more about commerce on the Internet on Tuesday. I probably got a little too far ahead in suggesting that we would do more on the aspects of the CDA case and indecency on the Internet on Tuesday. I think that's going to be more focused on the question of the future of the Internet and how commerce is tracked on the Internet; aspects related to those types of discussions. And we will, of course, have -- as the President said yesterday -- have an opportunity probably later this month or later in the month of July to bring together industry people, parents, representatives, children's advocates, industry representatives on the question of how you look at the technology that can guard children against indecencies that their parents don't want them to see on the Internet.

Q So Tuesday is commerce on Internet?

MR. MCCURRY: It will be more about the sale and delivery of software entertainment products, information, professional consulting, health education and financial services via the Internet. It's been a subject of a couple of draft white papers that have been circulating within the government and on the Internet itself -- one emanating from the Treasury Department, in fact.

Q Monday is taxes?

MR. MCCURRY: Tuesday. That's Tuesday. And then Wednesday --

Q But Monday is taxes?

MR. MCCURRY: Monday is the tax event, probably as a departure statement just prior to leaving for Boston. Maybe we could do that outside, depending on the weather.

Tuesday, this commerce event I just told you about.

Q Just on that Tuesday thing, will there be other participants, or is it just a statement?

MR. MCCURRY: There will be other participants as well from within government. I think we have some private sector people, too.

Then Wednesday, we go up to Camden Yards and the President will talk a little bit about education, the value of education, and some new public service announcements that some Major League baseball players are doing.

Q During the game or after?

MR. MCCURRY: I think they're going to attempt to play these at Camden Yards before a Major League baseball crowd, which is about the nuttiest thing I've heard in a while. But they're going to try. (Laughter.)

Q They will be very appreciative.

MR. MCCURRY: And when they all go, as I would, "Boooo," you can just sort of say I predicted it right there. No, I think that the President will certainly express his appreciation to all the Major League ballplayers who are making sure that education is a top priority for America's kids. (Laughter.) And collecting baseball cards, which is how I learned to read in the first place.

Then we do an event on Thursday that will set the tone for the President's trip to Europe. He will be honoring the nation's veterans as this country gets prepared to celebrate its independence and looking ahead to the future of the transatlantic alliance, the ways in which it may flourish and prosper in the years ahead, as a result of the summit in Madrid, which we go to next week. And he'll tape the radio address even Wednesday, I believe -- right? Wednesday or Thursday. So we'll have an advance sneak peak at that. And that is our week ahead.

Q We have Friday.

MR. MCCURRY: Friday, the 4th of July, is, as far as I know, the President plans to spend the day here, celebrating, and may or may not do some things connected to the party. We'll have to let you know -- the nation's birthday party, that is.

Q Don't we have a Mars event?

Q Are we going there, too?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't have -- I'm not showing anything now. Would you like to?

Q Why isn't the President going to address these issues that were raised in the CDA on Tuesday? Why are you postponing that?

MR. MCCURRY: We're not postponing it. I was just being corrected yesterday that I thought that they were going to do that in the context of this event Tuesday, and they, apparently, are not. They are going to do this discussion that they had planned for some time on commerce, and they'll set this other thing at a different time, but very soon. I still think they should probably do -- try to get in some of this on Tuesday because the President is interested in the subject.

Q What time is he going to Camp David?

MR. MCCURRY: He will tape the radio address and then he and the First Lady, his bride, will depart shortly thereafter. We are hoping early evening. But we will attempt to put a lid on prior to that, with the exception of the embargoed text.

Q When is the press picnic? (Laughter.)

MR. MCCURRY: Beautiful day. I've got the cheese. If you get the wine, Helen, we can go right now.

Q What's happening with the report on NAFTA that's supposed to go to Congress July 1st?

MR. MCCURRY: It goes up early next week. Just within the window of the deadline.

Q Will you include children on the Internet discussion?

MR. MCCURRY: Yes, we will. In fact, we include children on our own home page that the White House has right here, and you can click on and browse to your heart's content, even reading the transcript of this briefing, although it maybe sometimes falls outside the rating that some parents would prefer for items on the Internet. But we encourage children to make use of the home page, which is a good way to do a number of things, including finding out a lot more about Socks, the cat. And the needs of children and how they are addressed in the Internet will be a part of not only the discussion Tuesday about the future of commerce on the Internet, but obviously this discussion about aspects of the CDA that I mentioned earlier.

Q Speaking of deadlines, assuming that McCain-Feingold does not get passed and signed into law by next Friday, does the President have any plans to call attention to the fact that that deadline has been missed?

MR. MCCURRY: A lot more on that coming to you at 10:06 a.m. tomorrow morning as the President of the United States delivers his weekly radio address to the nation. That was pretty good -- how did I sound?

Q Are you going to have a readout on the Australian Prime Minister?

MR. MCCURRY: We're going to have a readout on the lunch and the working session underway right now in which we expect the President and the Prime Minister of Australia had a very good, thorough review of bilateral issues. The President will express again his gratefulness for Prime Minister Howard's hospitality when he was in Australia.

They were going to spend some time and probably some considerable time on issues that have very much been a part of both leaders' working agenda recently -- global climate change, aspects of security issues related to the Pacific. They plan to spend some time discussing the meeting in British Columbia, in Vancouver, in November of the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, in which the United States and Australia intend to pursue some aspects of the agenda jointly. And other such bilateral issues as may arise when two great countries, two great leaders, two great friends join together in the White House.

And we'll get you a real readout later, but that's close enough.

Q May I follow up on that? Do we know what time it's going to end, and is he going to appear for a stakeout?

MR. MCCURRY: Is Prime Minister Howard going to go to the stakeout at the conclusion of the lunch? I did not see that on the workout. So we will either produce a quick, brief, written readout, or Ann will come back and gaggle in the back quarters.

Q What time should it end, do you know?

MR. MCCURRY: At 2:30 p.m., 2:35 p.m., I think.

Q Did they say anything on the walk?

MR. MCCURRY: They talked a little bit about it. Apparently, Ann said they got a question about climate change.

Q Can we get a tape of that played through the mult, please, because --

MR. MCCURRY: You should check with your pool representative.

Q Mike, these memos in the hands of the House committee, do they jog the President's memory at all about whether he made fundraising phone calls?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't believe so, but I think Mr. Davis has been answering those questions. I'm not aware that anyone has talked to the President about it.

Q On that same subject, Lanny has been saying that the President knows for sure he did not make any calls from the Oval Office, but doesn't know if he made any calls, period. Does that make --

MR. MCCURRY: The President makes calls from the Oval Office all the time.

Q I mean fundraising calls. Does that make sense that he would not know whether or not he made fundraising calls, does not recall, but he does know that he didn't make them from the Oval Office, if he made them or didn't make them? (Laughter.)

MR. MCCURRY: I don't understand the question well enough. It sounds like you should go back and follow up with Lanny on that.

Q Mike, can you give us any kind of preview about what the President might say Monday on the tax bills?

MR. MCCURRY: He'll talk about -- look, it's reasonable to presume that the ideas that the President set forth in his FY'98 budget proposal with respect to taxes hold up pretty well as directions that he thinks the nation should consider going. At the same time, we want to live within the framework of the bipartisan balanced budget agreement and the President has not yet, so far, set forward his thinking about how a tax bill would be constructed consistent with the aspects of the budget agreement that he reached with the Republican leadership of Congress.

He will flesh out some detail on that. A lot of that will not be surprising. He will certainly insist on the full $35 billion of funding for the HOPE Scholarship concept, other things that we have talked about at some length, but there will be some other aspects of that -- will reflect the President's desire to try to work with this Republican Congress and acknowledge that they have some priorities, too, that have to be acknowledged in writing a tax bill.

Q Is he still going to oppose this Kennedy amendment on a twenty-cent increase for --

MR. MCCURRY: No. To the contrary; I believe, if I'm not mistaken, we have sent correspondence to the Hill today indicating that we will accept the Kennedy proposal on tobacco tax because, unlike the initial version which was outside the balanced budget agreement so stated by Senator Lott, the action of the Senate Finance Committee as supported by Senator Lott -- and that includes, obviously, the tobacco tax increase that's been proposed by Senator Kennedy.

Q Seventy cents -- how much?

MR. MCCURRY: Twenty cents.

MR. TOIV: This is in addition to what the committee did, but the principle is the same.

Q It's in addition to the 23 cents --

MR. MCCURRY: Right, and the principles -- the President's view generally is that if it is now acknowledged that you can, consistent with the balanced budget agreement, use the proceeds from a tobacco tax for children's health care, that's a good thing. We felt that all along. Our only concern was that was going to do violence to the structural integrity of the balanced budget agreement, and that concern has been set aside now by senator Lott, by other Republican members.

Q But you're saying because they had another measure that used a cigarette tax, but why is it suddenly not a deal-breaker anymore?

MR. MCCURRY: Because they've now said that there's nothing about the general concept of devoting those revenues to children's health that falls outside of the balanced budget agreement. And we say, well, that's fine; if that's the concept, that's a good concept.

Q Doesn't the President regret he missed his chance when he had it before?

MR. MCCURRY: No, because senator Lott called the President and asked him -- it was important to put a marker down on that issue. And he did, because the President wanted to demonstrate to the Majority Leader and others that he was going to stick up for the integrity of the balanced budget agreement. There will come a time when Majority Leader Lott is going to have to do the same with some of his own.

Q Mike, has the President communicated -- sent a communique to the Chinese leaders, President Jiang Zemin or Li Peng, on Hong Kong --

MR. MCCURRY: He has not communicated directly, but, of course, Secretary of State Albright is there representing the United States in Hong Kong. We are there to demonstrate our confidence that the reversion of Hong Kong to the People's Republic take place consistent with the 1984 British-Sino agreement that should govern and orderly non-violent transition in which Hong Kong can remain unique and remain, with its separate system, part of one China.

Q Mike, in his satellite hookup with LULAC, the President said that he was exploring legal options for preserving affirmative action when it comes to college admission policies. Could you elaborate on that?

MR. MCCURRY: Very consistent with what he said in the speech in San Diego on race, he continues to believe that affirmative action properly structured, consistent with the Supreme Court's decision on Adarand, is going to have to be available as a tool to address continuing injustice and discrimination in our society. How that is done will be consistent with his view that you can properly mend that which is wrong about affirmative action so that it is narrowly tailored so that it passes the strict scrutiny tests of the Court, so that it is a tool that can help break down barriers of injustice that prevent minority Americans and others from getting the full opportunities they deserve in our economy and in our society.

Q Well, he talked specifically about a review.

Q What legal vehicles are available for doing that? What legal vehicles would he have? Is he considering legislation?

MR. MCCURRY: We will continue to see from time to time in the courts some challenges to aspects of affirmative action. The Court agreed today to take up a case that the Justice Department will have to look at carefully. There will be other legal challenges along the way. There is pending litigation with respect to Proposition 209, and in all of those we've indicated our intent to advocate and fight for the principles the President has made clear.

Q Well, it sounded like he was saying he'd ask the Education Department and DOJ to review this to see what recourse he had. Is he trying to figure out if 209 perhaps violates certain civil right statutes so he can deny federal education funds to California?

MR. MCCURRY: I'm not speculating on that type of thing. I don't know that that is something that we have under consideration. I do know that we have entered in the court system to argue the government's case with respect to 209, and I think that's where the matter stands. But there are other aspects of our review. Remember, growing out of our affirmative action review we said we would have to continue to test government affirmative action programs to assure that they met the Court's standard in Adarand. And that has continued. There have been some changes, modifications, in some cases, substantial modifications in government affirmative action programs based on our determination to mend, not end affirmative action because we've said all along we're going to have to reform these programs so that they are consistent with common sense, consistent with the President's principles, consistent with the Supreme Court's opinion, but also, ultimately, available as a legal remedy for injustice and discrimination.

Q Mike, I thought I heard this morning that the Supreme Court had granted cert to the Piscataway case.

MR. MCCURRY: Right. As I mentioned, that's a case that will now be pending. The Justice Department will need to examine carefully what its options are with respect to that case. As you know, the Justice Department had argued that that was not a good case because of the very unique circumstances of that case, not a good case to test some of these larger propositions related to constitutional law and affirmative action. But the Justice Department will now have to consider what to do in light of the action by the Court today.

Q Mike, do you have anything more on the President's reaction to the Court's decision on the Brady Bill? Was he disappointed by this? Does he think he'll be successful in urging local authorities to voluntarily enforce the provisions?

MR. MCCURRY: I think he was, first and foremost, interested in what the reasoning of the Court was, and he had a good opportunity to be briefed by the Attorney General and the Solicitor General and their interpretation on a quick read of the Court's opinion. He was, as he just said, confident that there is some ability to encourage local law enforcement officials to continue to do what they've been done to require the background checks, for the simple reason that it's worked.

The President, as he said, believes that's been an important and valued part of our anticrime strategy -- 250,000 felons, fugitives, stalkers, others have not gotten weapons as a result of the background checks. And that's important and good and we need to find the right way, consistent with this interpretation of law, to continue that progress.

Q Mike, getting back to the tax bill, this morning you told us that he would veto anything that would explode the deficit. What do you think are the biggest problem areas along those lines in the current Republican proposals?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, the one that is clearly the most problematic is indexing of capital gains, because there's no revenue projection that we've seen or that Treasury has been able to produce that doesn't show massive out-year increases in budget deficits. That's just simple arithmetic based on their analysis of what the consequences of that provision would be.

And Majority Leader Lott, Speaker Gingrich have signed their names to a pledge that they won't explode the deficit in the out-years, and if it's to the satisfaction of the Joint Committee on Taxation and the Treasury Department after their review, consistent with the letter signed by the Majority Leader and the Speaker that that would happen, then the Republican leadership is obligated to strike that provision from this bill.

Barry points out that there are some other aspects of the Senator bill that concern us as well that would create out-year effects.

Q What are they?

MR. MCCURRY: Principally, the IRA provisions and how they would be applied.

Q On Monday, is the President going to offer his own alternative tax plan, or is it more how the Senate and House bills could be fixed, how different things would be modified to address --

MR. MCCURRY: My impression -- correct me if I'm wrong, Barry -- my impression is that we're at a point now where we enter the processes, the two bills go to conference committee, where we believe we will have a better opportunity to have some influence on the final legislation. The President can make his views well-known. I think he can describe for the conferees in both Houses what it is that he is looking for in an acceptable package and what they need to produce for him to satisfy him that will make it an acceptable tax bill. And at the same time, the White House and the President will have to acknowledge there are things that they are looking for as well that we will have to live with, even if they are not necessarily what we would have put forward in the first instance as a tax bill.

Q So, but, for instance, both the House and Senate bill have the child tax credit non-refundable. Is that -- since it's in both bills, is that signed --

MR. MCCURRY: I'm not right now going to try to write the specifics of that, but we will have more to say on that Monday.

Q On the Court's decision on the Brady act, is there any -- with the White House making the point at the local level, people should continue with the checks, is there any concern that at the local level the Court's decision will be misinterpreted as banning or discouraging them from continuing the checks and that's why you're out there reminding them that you would like them to?

MR. MCCURRY: I think that there is some concern, that the Attorney General, as you know, has written to her law enforcement colleagues and starts right off by saying only a part of the Brady act has now been struck down, to underscore the importance there are a lot of tools within the structure of the Brady act that are available to local law enforcement officials and they ought to be used to protect Americans from gun violence, and to make sure that guns don't go to those who are not going to need them and shouldn't have them.

Q Mike, during the campaign last year, or early in last year's campaign, the President used a figure of 40,000 people who had been denied handguns under the law, and then later he increased that to 60,000. Now we've had a four-fold increase, apparently, over the past year. Where does that number come from?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, the number -- we rely upon the Justice Department, presumably through the division on criminal statistics there. So you should really ask them, but we rely on the number they give us.

Q What would you say was President Clinton's most objectionable part of the House tax bill? Was it the capital gains, as you mentioned? And what about the --

MR. MCCURRY: I think there were a number of --

Q You need to rank them.

Q Is that the independent contractors provision?

MR. MCCURRY: That's saying that that's denying the full benefit of the child care tax credit to those who are receiving the earned income tax credit. It's precisely the issue the President talked about recently in describing the circumstances of someone who makes $22,000 a year, is trying to support a family, is working, is paying federal payroll taxes for Social Security, Medicare -- probably trying to struggle to make the rent every month. But working and determined to work and not live on welfare.

And somewhere or other these people are not worthy in the eyes of the Republican majority to get a little help because the money should go elsewhere -- to people who have got big capital gains write offs or something. And so we do take some strong exception to that provision and have so stated.

Q And what about the provision on independent contractors, is that also objectionable?

MR. MCCURRY: I'd have to look and see what our statements of administration policy say -- maybe we can look it up for you.

Q On the tobacco settlement review, is the President generally optimistic or pessimistic that something will eventually come out of all of this and become --

MR. MCCURRY: Well, he's generally an optimist, but I think that is a difficult enough question that he has now structured the review you just heard about so that we can answer those questions as best we can -- not on what our general impression is, our general feelings about the agreement, but what we can demonstrate for fact is in the best interest of public health. And I think that's the way the President would want his own decision about the settlement to be rendered. What is at the end of the day --

Q So he's not really sure until he sees --

MR. MCCURRY: There is a lot about this that we don't know, a lot that we are only now beginning to understand, and a lot that prevents us from saying that this got the President's endorsement. The President clearly believes that an extraordinary effort was made to get this settlement. But just because the effort was extraordinary doesn't mean the result is necessarily extraordinary.

Q But he wants a deal?

MR. MCCURRY: We have said all along a settlement is preferable to protracted years of litigation in which kids continue to be exposed to inducements to smoke. And that is -- it's better to have a settlement that protects the public health and has demonstrated, measurable progress to the President's public health goal of reducing by half the number of people smoking by the end of the century. Better to do that than to end up fighting over this for years and years to come in court, with no public health outcome -- is discernable.

So, yes, it would be better to have a settlement than to have litigation. But we will insist on continuing to pursue litigation and pursuing the FDA's assertion of jurisdiction in the absence of a settlement.

Q Mike, can I try another angle? There is a provision in the House bill that requires -- that would make it easier for employers to make employees independent contractors. They would lose their benefits, health benefits, things like that. One would presume -- would you think Clinton might make a strong statement on that?

MR. MCCURRY: The President and his administration have fought continually for increases in the protections that employers provide workers in employer-provided employee benefit programs. We believe it's important -- the government can't do everything when it comes to protecting retirement income security, when it comes to protecting health care needs, when it comes to addressing the family life needs of a working person and his or her family. So we have always said we should try to make it easier for the private sector to provide those kinds of benefits. Making it easier for the private sector to take those benefits away is not something the President is going to be enthusiastic about, to say the least.

Q On the tobacco deal, in Denver, Clinton said 30 days. Is that a timetable that starts today, or do you have a final date?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, 30 days hath September -- July's got 31, and I heard Secretary Shalala express enthusiasm for the President's desire to have it done within 30 days and say realistically they'll try to get it done during the course of July and August.

Q She didn't express enthusiasm.

MR. MCCURRY: She expressed skepticism, maybe? I think they want to get it right and they're working -- they're clearly going to use the month of July to work the problem. The reality in Washington is a lot of people are going to be leaving town in August, so they're going to try to finish it as close in to August as they can.

Q September, realistically, then?

MR. MCCURRY: I didn't hear Reed and Shalala give themselves until September, because then that goes beyond Labor Day and then we've got a lot going on then. Weeks, not months.

Q Are you trying to do it before everybody leaves?

MR. MCCURRY: I think they want to try to -- they want to get it right, they want to get it done within the course of the summer before we get into the dog days of August.

Q Will Ira Magaziner be at the event Tuesday, and will there be a report released in conjunction with that?

MR. MCCURRY: I think yes and yes. He has had a large role in circulating this draft report that is being commented on and I do expect him to be a part of that event.

Q Will the report be released?

MR. MCCURRY: Are we releasing a report Tuesday? Yes.

Q Mike, who is briefing on Thursday on the Madrid summit?

MR. MCCURRY: We'll probably do it sooner than that. I think we should do it sooner than that. Wednesday morning -- is that too late for everyone, the Madrid preview?

Q Are we getting a sign-up today?

MR. MCCURRY: You're getting a sign-up today, I told Helen earlier because she's anxious. She wants to be first on the list.

Q I just want to clarify something -- are you saying that the President will veto any tax bill that has capital gains --

MR. MCCURRY: I'd say the President has made it pretty clear that he's seen no revenue projections that make indexing of capital gains consistent with the commitment given to him by Majority Leader Lott and Speaker Gingrich that there would not be out-year budget effects as a result of a tax that would explode the deficit. So unless there's something they know that the Treasury Department doesn't know, it's not likely that that will be acceptable. We've refrained from using the "V" word, but we've come about as close as we can on that specific provision.

Q Mike, if his concerns about stacking the child care credit are addressed, does that satisfy his concerns about the general distribution of the taxes in terms of number and --

MR. MCCURRY: Well, not entirely. But the President --look, the President is the first to acknowledge that there will have to be capital gains tax relief and some estate tax relief in this bill. Those are two things the Republican leadership made very clear they want to have in it, and once you put that in it, you skew the distributional benefit of the bill to the upper income. That's by definition.

Q No matter what you do to stacking, is that what you're saying?

MR. MCCURRY: That's correct. That's by definition. But we're saying, that doesn't relieve you of the obligation to do some of those things to help the working poor and the people who are making below the median average wage to get some relief to them for the things that they need in life, too.

Q So what he's saying is that he is willing to live with a tax bill that gives the majority of its benefits to upper income people so long as they do a few things for this --

MR. MCCURRY: Well, not a few things. I mean, he's got some very fundamental things that he wants done. They've got to provide incentives for education and higher educational opportunities so people can learn more, earn more money, grow themselves into the upper middle income over time. They've got to do other things that we've asked them to address specifically in the course of the bill. And they've got to balance out some of the impact on the distributional effect of the bill itself.

So we have got some pretty fundamental things that we negotiated hard with the Republican leadership to get in writing, and they are in writing. And sooner or later, the Republican leadership will be called upon to remind their tax bill writers that there is a deal, and a deal is a deal.

Q Mike, what about the President's plan to make the Internet a tax-free zone? I thought that the --

MR. MCCURRY: That's pushing us too far ahead to Tuesday. I'm not going to take that question now.

Q Mike, did the President meet with the CEOs of the Detroit auto-makers this morning?

MR. MCCURRY: No, we couldn't get all the participation we wanted in that event and so we were forced to postpone it again.

Q When, to what?

Q Weeks rather than months? Months rather than years?

MR. MCCURRY: Haven't set a date yet. It was due, I think in the case of one person, to an illness; so, hopefully, soon.

Q Is the President concerned about appearing heavy-handed with the NATO allies by scheduling these Central European visits even before the issue is settled at Madrid?

MR. MCCURRY: No. We've had good conversations within NATO and within the leaders about how best to articulate the case publicly for the expansion of NATO. I think there is a lot of agreement. I think the President has bent over backwards in recent days to be very complimentary of our European allies and friends. They have demonstrated leadership on issues like acid rain, like

global warming, other things we've done. I think he's very encouraged by the way in which we've worked together on this issue. And we acknowledge that sometimes the United States has to speak bluntly and candidly, but I think they would acknowledge, even if it's privately, that in some way, that's the way things get done in this alliance.

Q Is this going to be settled before the summit?

MR. MCCURRY: I predict that there will be a very harmonious, momentous -- give me something else to say.

Q Arrogant. (Laughter.)

MR. MCCURRY: You ruined my train of thought. It will be a very -- it will be a great deal of comity -- that's c-o-m-i-t-y -- (laughter) -- in Madrid as the allies gather and address this question. And it will be the result of a lot of hard work that has gone into it, a lot of common understanding about what our objectives are and a lot of good, patient diplomacy that respects fully the values of all 16 members of the alliance.

Q About the President's visit to Romania, do you have more details about this visit? How long will it be and something about the President's message to the Romanian people?

MR. MCCURRY: We, unfortunately, have no complete details at this point. But the President is delighted that he will have the opportunity to go to Bucharest. He looks forward to expressing his anticipation that the people of Romania and their leadership will work together with the North Atlantic Alliance to, in the future, continue both the partnership that we have come to enjoy and to enhance the prospects of membership as we continue to keep the door open for additional members in the future.

I think the President believes that will be a very positive message for the people of Romania. And, of course, he will express the gratitude the people of the United States feel for all the changes that the people of Romania have pursued in recent years, since the changes that have occurred in that country, and as they have deepened both their commitment to democratic institutions and to market economics, and have grown closer to those in the West that share those values.

Q There was a pretty impressive group of former diplomats and senior U.S. officials that announced they were going to fight against NATO expansion. Does that cause you any concerns?

MR. MCCURRY: No, we think the list of former experts and officials that are in favor of it and think it's good for security, good for Europe's security, and ultimately good for Russia's security is more impressive than their list. (Laughter.) Our list is better than their list. (Laughter.)

THE PRESS: Thank you.

MR. MCCURRY: Thank you. Have a lovely weekend. We'll see you on Monday.

END 2:20 P.M. EDT